Photo of Stephanie Mencarelli

Pandemic Design with Stephanie Mancarelli

January 30, 2021 by UX-RADIO

In this episode, we talk with Stephanie Mencarelli, Senior Design Director at Walmart Labs, about her experience leading teams and designing delightful user experiences even in a global pandemic.



This is UX radio. Here are your hosts, Lara Fedoroff and Chris Chandler.


Today we’re talking with Stephanie Mencarelli. She is a Senior Design Director at Walmart Labs where she spends her days inspiring her teams to push the boundaries of what is possible to innovate for millions of Walmart customers. Previously, Stephanie lived in Stockholm, Sweden, and worked at the Spotify headquarters. There she led a team that delivered a multitude of delightful experiences to music and podcast listeners around the globe. Stephanie’s background in advertising also makes her passionate about storytelling strategy in answering the question, so


Stephanie focuses on helping her team make the complex, simple. Consider real-world implications with service design, and she believes every designer needs to wear a business hat. When she’s not at work. You can find Stephanie outside hiking or playing tennis, and then making an elaborate meal at home. We’re really excited to have Stephanie on today’s show.


Hi, and welcome to UX radio. My name is Lara Fedoroff. And I’m Chris Chandler. And today it is our extreme pleasure to welcome Stephanie man Corelli, a senior director of design at Walmart e-commerce to the show. Welcome, Stephanie. Woo, happy to be here, guys. Thanks for having me. So Stephanie, just to start us off, why don’t you give us your background and history? Yeah, sure. So my CliffsNotes per se. So I got my start in traditional advertising, you know, I thought I was going to be a madman, although actually, before that, I thought, you know, I was going to be account manager, luckily, I had a few really key mentors in my life to say, No, you can be in the creative field, you can do this. So switch gears worked at a full-service ad agency for many years, you know, going to press checks, color checking late at night, full service, billboards, websites, you name it, then, you know, I transitioned to into startup world, and this was really, it’s hard to count which economic crash that was at this point. But one of them so you know, no one was needing advertising essentially. So I lost my job there. And then, you know, kind of got hunted into the tech world, where I was really lucky. Also there too, you know, at a startup, you have to have many hats, right? So I was designing websites for celebrities and brands and these connected communities, and they needed people, more engineers, more people to build the thing. And so my boss one day was like, hey, so do you want to learn how to know code, the sites that you’re designing? And I’m like, are you gonna teach me because Sure, you know, that I’m a voracious learner, I am will always, I always say yes. Something I need to work on, frankly. But um, so I was really lucky to have our head of engineering take me under his wing. I vividly remember going into a room and he was like, okay, so zeros and ones like he started from there. It was really great. So then I started building the sites that I was designing, which I think in some sense, ruins you as a designer forever.


Because so many times you’re like, just give me the keys to GitHub, I’ll just fix this thing that’s slightly off. And so from there, I then worked at Fandango, where I met Chris. And, you know, we went we were there during a really pivotal time of rebranding and complete redesign of their apps and website. And I learned so much, especially so much from Chris, we’ll get into that probably later.


And then, you know, from there, I lived and worked in Stockholm, Sweden for three years at Spotify. The little known fact I feel is that their main headquarters is in Stockholm, their Swedish company. And there I was managing a team of designers who are working across multiple platforms, everything from desktop to Web Player to the embeddable player, through to connected devices and everything in between, which was just an amazing experience wouldn’t trade it for the world. And now I’m here in San Diego working at Walmart labs, where I’m currently heading up the customer experience team here so I talk about it in a customer journey, right everything from you know, finding, designing, trying, buying, receiving, hopefully loving if not returning, and all those things in between for millions of Americans every day. So that’s where I’m at now. Wow, that’s really impressive. I have so many questions. I’m excited to get started.


I’d love to get started near to the beginning of your story and understand what was the most valuable thing you learned from Chris at Fandango?


Well, we were joking before the call that I quote him frequently to my team now. So I think that just gives you a sense of how impressionable Chris was on me. You know, one thing, in particular, I think that I’ve definitely learned from Chris is how much of your UX is outside of the screen. Right? So Fandango, one of our kind of key personas was, you know, this 20 something-year-old man who lives in New York because we just had a lot of people buying movie tickets in New York, okay, he has to download his mobile ticket, but he’s going into a subway where he’s probably going to have low connectivity. And so you know, something that we always wanted to do, they’re always referenced as well as, you know, we tried to model how Google does it, which they do to Jay Tuesdays, where, you know, everyone at Google experiences their products in a lower, you know, internet, for instance. So I think really designing for experiences when things are happening outside in the real world was a big one. And then we kind of joke, but I do quote this a lot as well, that, you know, the Back button is like the best UX feature ever. It’s something that I have impressed on my designers as well. But it’s just to say, you know, I think we noodle a lot in once you’re in an experience, or especially a web experience, okay, at least breadcrumbs in this, and how do you move around and go back and forth and whatnot, it’s like, just remember that people’s initial muscle memory is just to go to those some of those hero moments, right. So it’s more than just the Back button. But it is still hilarious to me because we had some really healthy debates. And when Chris mentioned that it just like it loosened up the room, and we all just kind of started laughing. Well, Stephanie, you know, you were you’re the first designer, I mean, the first one that I knew that actually had coding experience, right. And like you if you were such a badass, because of that, I can clearly see, right, the difference between I mean, we work with some great designers there. Right. But to me, it was very important learning to watch what happened when you could pair with an engineer to get exactly the experience that you wanted in the front. And you were so diligent, and you just fought for that so hard. And then the thing that I’ll say is, my impression was you didn’t know a lot about UX when you started. But you soak that up, like a sponge.


Like, you know, so, so just very impressive to me the way that you like you said it being a voracious learner. And I’ve seen that in action, and it’s inspiring. And you know, something that totally changed my career. I only want to work with designers who understand code and can work with engineers now.


It’s such a difference-maker. But I mean, I’d love your point about how it ruins you as a designer.


Because that’s, you know, that’s most and I’d love if you want to say some more about that because I know, I know, the designers I know, are kind of on the fence about the positives and negatives of it. Yeah, I think it’s a tricky one, right? Because it’s, it was so a part of our industry’s vocabulary for a long time, I think it’s petered out a little bit of, you know, the newest skill now that you need to learn is how to code, I would argue that the newest skill that you need to learn right now is how to write better how to be a better writer. But we can go into that a little later. But when it comes to, you know, having an engineering background, I think even if you can just get to the basics of it, you start to change your mindset, meaning you build more empathy for your partners and engineering. And you start to realize that we’re all just solving problems just in different ways. We’re breaking really difficult things apart to make them simple. And they’re building really difficult things to then make them simple. It’s just like the inverted triangle almost of each other. But yeah, it helps to be able to have those healthy debates with engineers, where they’re like, Oh, no, this is too hard to do. I’m like, well, but you could just what about this and you like, can sit there and brainstorm with them about how to tackle the problem. Instead of just handing them an experience and hoping that they can build it right? It just it creates more of a dialogue. But it’s not necessarily like you need to be able to build your whole entire website from scratch. But if you know those, like key points of friction, it really helps with the conversation. That’s great. I’m so curious about your Spotify experience, especially since moving from Fandango to Spotify is in Stockholm, and no less. And I’m really curious about the country.


traversal squad, the Spotify squads and what that looked like, and your experience with that? Yeah, definitely. Everything at Spotify, when I first joined was very Game of Thrones, right? So we had squads and tribes and missions, and it was it’s a trip what they label things there, that’s for sure. But yeah, I think, What is there to say, about squads I was overseeing a portion of a tribe. So I had multiple squads in my purview. And there was always this kind of debate around how and where design fits into that squad model. And the one joy about Spotify is that every corner of it is different because everyone is empowered to make their own decisions. So you could have one area of a tribe that functions a certain way within their squads, and then a completely another different way, right. So one squad could be all in JIRA, another squad could just have sticky notes on the board. For instance, one squad would be in certain, you know, two weeks sprints, another in one week, it was kind of nutty, it caused a lot of other complications. However, everyone was very empowered to make the most of their role and their team and better their team, which I thought was very powerful. When you know, a company isn’t just so prescriptive, from the top down about every single little thing. I think that’s what leads to a lot of the innovation that Spotify sees, because everyone is very empowered to be this active member of the company. But yes, the conundrum of also how design fits into squads and you know, proper engineering teams has always been a tricky one. And I’ve tried it a few different ways. The first being having a dedicated designer per squad, engineers love it, it’s there, you know, part of the team, however, I find that designers are then in all the sprint planning and grooming and hearing about things that just are not a good use of their time. No offense engineers, but it’s like, at a certain point, there’s a fine line between being an active team member, versus just wasting some perfectly good heads downtime that you could be using to solve your, you know, UX problems and whatnot for the customer. So I think something that I have found success in is this sort of cemented and hybrid fluid model, meaning they’re cemented for the things that matter. So it could be they always attend stand up, but only on Mondays. So then the squad needs to kind of wrap their mind around when what day is the best day for designed to be there. Okay, it’s probably towards the beginning of our sprint when we have a lot of questions about what we’re trying to build. And we’re breaking it down together. And maybe we missed some use cases and you know, buttoning it all up, right. I think the other part too, that I was a big proponent of at Spotify was being inclusive of the cross-functional team, meaning we didn’t just go and sketch ideas or possibilities just as a design team. It was really founded in their squad. And I was also part of the team at Spotify, who develop the personas. And so we had these big cutouts of each persona. And so we would bring in one of the cutouts or multiple we were solving for multiple different types, put them in a room, we would have engineering and their product and their content strategy, research analytics. And you know, very clearly state the goal, we would kind of act out who the person was, which I also always reference our dear colleague, Julia, who would mime things out either my mouth, the animation she was looking for, or my mouth, what a customer was going through. And I also referenced that on my team all the time, I’m like, do whatever you have to do to get the story across, right? Whether it’s literally my main, I think she had professional mind training, I just watched it, it was it was this was


so true. Really the designer, you know, for that squad would be responsible for doing that, right, bringing in that person, that big cutout persona, getting us in the mindset of that and really building empathy for the people that we were trying to solve for, but still sketching ideating with their squad so that everyone felt heard, right, and that their input was taken into the final solution that we were going to be delivering. But also some of the best ideas were coming from other people right because we get so stuck in a mindset sometimes as well of like here’s the patterns and this is tried and tested and Lola and


I find that it just opens us up more to actually build. Also that extra bit, that extra piece of delight that extra bit of animation or micro-interaction, because everyone is so bought into it that they spend the time to do so we had a really great culture of hacking at Spotify. So we had a weeklong hack week, every year. But then within our tribe, we had a monthly hack day. And some of the senior executives always were like, we create so much during hack week, how do we make that happen every week of the year, right, and a piece of it is looping everyone into the goal and getting people excited about it. And that is where I think my team really shined because, on my team, we did a lot of fun. Easter eggs, if you will, right. So for Pride Week, when you were on a pride playlist on desktop, and you turn the volume up or down, there was like this rainbow and you know, say it loud came out. We also did the Star Wars lightsaber on the scrubber and a boatload of other really fun easter egg type things that weren’t technically on our roadmap, but we just had enough people who really cared about it to get it done and work with people throughout the company to make it happen. So and those were things that would come up out of hack days, is that some of them, they might come out of hack days, or our content team would have an idea, or different markets team would have different ideas that were you know, specific to different markets around the world. And then they most of the time, they would come to me. And it’d be like, okay, who, you know, I have a call out for anyone in my area to say, Hey, is anyone interested in jamming on this with me, and we would always get volunteers. And it’s just, you know, after work kind of thing, just to try to push the boundaries of what’s possible. That’s amazing. I mean, those really are the delightful moments when you’re interacting with Spotify when those unexpected things happen. Exactly. And I love that idea about that. Basically, culture supports that, right? that everybody’s invested, everybody’s empowered, and you’re even just saying, like, Hey, we’re going to jam on this, maybe it’s after hours. But you know, what, sometimes is what it takes to deliver those moments. Yeah, that’s where discover weekly came from, that’s where daily mixes come from. There are so many features. So my team worked on a lot of the Connect features. So how would you, I don’t know, it was interesting. When you can set a setting and that when you walk into your home, it’ll auto-switch your audio from where you were just commuting into the speaker that you’ve chosen. Awesome, right. And that just came out of someone’s idea that then, you know, we shepherd and got it into the roadmap. But I just don’t believe that that would happen as frequently if the design was not so integrated within the squads, but you just have to toe the line a little bit. Otherwise, because it can get a little ridiculous, where a designer just doesn’t have enough time to do their work because they’re in all of these different ceremonies and whatnot. I remember once the experience from the other side, right of trying to make sure that engineers were included, developers were included in design jamming sessions writing, like working that problem the other way. And then one time, you know, the engineer, the developer walked out of the meeting. And he said to me, did we really just spend 45 minutes talking about fonts?


And that was, you know, I had the opposite moment of like, boy, I really should have been coding, right?


Yeah, not get a lot out of that conversation. And so it is really a balance point, right of cross-functionality. But also, you know, different disciplines care about different things to different degrees. And yes. How do you dip your toe in just enough to feel the temperature of the water, but you don’t need to Cannonball in right? Yeah, it’s the same thing with products in my world. They’re always like, can you please join your design reviews? I’m like, sure. Come right in. And we’re like, Okay, what do we what’s the hierarchy on this page? What are people seeing first, second, third? Oh, this isn’t quite lined up, right? What type of ramp are you using? And there you just see their eyes like, please, like, we’re not making product decisions. Don’t worry, we’re doing that together.


So you’ve led some really impressive design teams. What have you carried from your experience into the Walmart e-commerce team? Yeah, I will say


when did you start at Walmart? Oh, almost two years ago. Yeah. You know, moved back from Sweden to the US to San Diego to head up their Carlsbad office and to join really is overseeing the grocery experience for Walmart. And that was the


big reason why I joined, I knew that I wanted to work in something food-related. I think there’s just something really, I’m naturally interested in that space,


very into healthy living. And you know how food is medicine. And I was just really excited for the opportunity to shape millions of Americans’ health through food because Walmart really is America’s grocery store. We don’t think about that necessarily on the coasts all the time. But for many folks, the only place to get, you know, fresh or frozen fruits, vegetables, whatnot, is from a Walmart, and they’ve grown their grocery business in a massive way. I do most of my grocery shopping there. They have organic everything. It’s really high quality, you know, little plug there. But


yeah, so what did you bring to Walmart from the Spotify experience? And how is it different? Just out of curiosity from your teams? And


so it’s funny, right? Because it’s very similar, yet very different. I think, you know, it’s fortune one, corporate America, versus ultra-agile Swedish culture is in Spotify. So culturally, quite different. At Spotify, I affectionately called it the United Nations attack, because Stockholm is such a small city that they don’t get their talent from there, right? Not really. So on my team alone, we had representation of something like 28 different countries, I wasn’t the only American on my portion of the tribe for a very long time to Icelandic dudes, but only American. So I think it paints a picture of just how much I’ve learned, as a human being as a manager, as a leader, to work with various cultures that are so different. For me, I think there was a really great book that came out a couple years ago that studied how different cultures work together and come to conclusions or communicate. And there’s just like, one page or diagram that really is so perfect, that, you know, Americans, it’s a straight line, and out and out, and then a conclusion. Swedes, it’s straight lines, worlds world back to the front swirls horse world back to the front, and then you never actually come to a conclusion, which is hilarious with, you know, Swedish culture and very accurate. Lots of like, everyone has to agree, we must get consensus. And then you have, you know, German, that’s just like, straight into the point or something. So it just speaks to what I learned there is how much I need to assess situations with others toned down my Americanness, which I think Chris will probably laugh at because I’m just like, super opinionated, you know, very passionate kind of person. And I worked with many people who weren’t necessarily and so I had to learn to tone that down to give them space to be themselves. Out of all the many things I learned at Spotify, that has to be one of the big ones that I keep with me to this day. Because even though I’m working with mostly all Americans, now, they all have different backgrounds, right? They all have different needs, desires, wants out of life. And that’s really something big that I took with me into this role. Now, at Walmart, we have a four in the box model. So very similar to Spotify as trio. So at Spotify, I had a product counterpart and an engineering counterpart. And so we were the trio that were leading these multiple squads defining the strategy for our space, overall team health, and so much more. And at Walmart, the four in the box is design, engineering, product and business. And so I think it really speaks to the equality of those four roles, and how those four roles are really required to end up doing our best work. Now, it doesn’t mean that there are it’s only the four of us in the box. Heck, no. There’s content strategy, there’s research, there’s analytics, there’s, I mean, so much more ops is a big part of, you know, the things that we need to get done at Walmart because there’s the physical space that is affecting everything that we do on the digital side. So in some fashion, we do work in a sort of similar way. However, I would say that design is much more of a central unit. We’re actually one of the only teams at Walmart that is not kind of broken up into other areas, right. So we have a really core design team culture. We’re like the one red thread that brings everything together.


For our customers and our associates, whereas different business folks or product folks only care about their little area of the world. And design is the kind of glue that keeps it all stuck together, right? Okay. If we do something on the customer side, how does that affect my amazing colleague and peer on the associate side who were constantly staying connected, and right now we have a big project underway to showcase these sorts of nonlinear journeys, that real people, whether they be associates or customers, effect throughout our experience, but us doing it in a way that’s really engaging intangible and high level to tell that story to basically all of Walmart,


no pressure. While the foreign unbox makes a lot of sense, for sure, especially strategically, you did mention something about the health of your team. And I’m really curious to hear more about that. Yeah, where do I begin? I think it’s, especially during this pandemic, has been a real struggle, right? I think that the lines between work and home are blurred now more than ever, some folks can really embrace it and have found those boundaries and what works for them, and others are really still struggling with it. Right? I will say, I’ve also been reading a lot of books on this. And one of the, you know, I forget the exact term, I should have like written notes.


at a time, I’m going to have to like go back and give you guys all the references I keep referencing but there, it’s psychologically proven that actually, little did we know, our commutes were good for us. And I mean, I’m like thinking in LA, where I would be in traffic stuck for hours for only 10 miles. But it really was good for us mentally, because you disconnect, there’s something in your brain that disconnects from work, and your body changes your physiology changes, because you have left your office building, you’re in your car, either listening to this podcast, hopefully, or music, right. And then you arrive home and you have these sort of gates within your day, where your brain clicks, right. We’ve lost all that. So now, I mean, the key is, hopefully, you have a separate room for your office. For me, it’s my husband’s office, my office, my peloton is behind me, it’s a room for a lot of purposes, but it’s still a room with a door. And then it’s key to walk out that door and close the door. No Go back in, because that’s the closest we can get right now, to that same changing of the physiology and your brain that we used to get from commuting, no more traffic, no more rage.


You know, no more accidents. But that one’s really key. And I think the other part too, that I’ve really championed in my team is during this time of always-on, right, you’re on Slack, you’re on email, and it’s on your phone. Oh, there’s another good book that I’ll reference is called the joy of work. They have a lot of really amazing studies. And this was pre quarantine pre everything, but it’s so related that just the cortisol that comes off in our brain when we see a push notification, right, is destructive to your overall well-being. and so much more. So turn off push notifications on your phone. Oh my god, what I’ve done it for now. 10 months best thing ever, seriously, highly recommended. Do it. I think it was very apt that slack was down for the first Monday that we were all back. And I do I saw on LinkedIn someone posted.


slack being down on the first day back from holiday is just proof that that slack message can wait until you’re ready to reply. And it’s something that I say to my team as well, because so many of them are taking care kids home learning, right? I mean, I could go on and on about how much life is happening during this work from home. I think we mentioned it earlier. But we aren’t just working from home or working from home during a pandemic. And it’s something I say a lot to my team that take the time you need walk outside, take a break. The key here is that just put your away on slack. You don’t even have to say what you’re doing. You could if you want Hey making my kid a snack, like you know, have people build that empathy with you if you’re away. But even more importantly, set those expectations because the key for us to continue to sustain this level of working from home is getting much better.


Communicating with our teams. So it’s as simple as I put a little dog emoji on slack. And I say back at 2pm PST because I need to take my dog out, right. But then at least that person knows I’m not ignoring you, I’ll just be back at two. And that’s when you can expect me to interact with you. I also have been very passionate about telling my design team,


you know, content, user research, whoever the role is, just close your slack. If you’re doing heads downtime, we are so distracted by all of this, like messaging and technology and getting back to that email. As creative people find your Zen find which area, I’m a morning person, I’m a right after lunch person, I’m a night person, wherever you’re most creative and most productive, block off that time, randomly on your calendar, or close lack, when you’re going to go into those times is just another thing that I’ve really been trying to lead by example, as well, I do it myself so that people see that it’s not just lip service. But I think you know, we have to hold the line a lot more of our own behavior, because I think there’s, of course, an important narrative around how many various companies are making their people just work harder during this pandemic. But I have found that most of it is self-inflicted, right? And just the boundaries that we need to take instead. But it’ll take us time to get those muscles down, right, because it’s, for me anyways, I am very new to this whole working remote thing.


For sure. And we’ve noticed a lot that people have some people have a hard time taking time off work. Yes, just stopping, or they feel guilty, even. And so it’s an interesting dilemma, right? Yeah, I think


the whole vacation topic we could talk about for hours, it’s one of the things I miss most about working in Sweden, because you would get six weeks paid vacation, if you didn’t take it, especially as an XPath, the government could potentially not renew your green card, essentially. And you get paid by the government. When you take time off. It’s a little bit but it’s supposed to, you know, be Hey, you took time off, here’s some money for when you took time off. And I remember the first time I went on vacation at Spotify, and my partners and colleagues and team were like, I have a great time delete slack from your phone. And like they really meant it where I feel like for certain people in American culture, there’s a lot of shaming that goes on, either from your colleagues or your boss or whatnot. That’s like, oh, didn’t you just go on vacation last month, or you know, there’s a lot of this judge Enos, and then even when you are going on vacation, you end up spending more time working beforehand to prep for your vacation. And then when you come back from vacation, it’s like, I should have never even taken that time off, right? There’s that feeling there. So I do wish that it was a little more supported, just culturally by our peers, right to take time off. But hopefully, my team would agree that they’re lucky to have me because I did live in Sweden. And I see the benefits of taking time off and how much more productive you’ll be when you come back. That I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever declined a vacation request from anyone, even if it means that I have to do much more work to cover for them. It’s worth it in the end for me, but I think it’s a big issue in American culture, to be totally Frank, and something I miss a lot about living in Sweden. That’s amazing. I mean, I feel like we could talk about that for another 15 minutes. But you know, that one of the things I really am interested in is, you know, that basically, you know, how Walmart has responded to the pandemic and how, you know, the kinds of work and, you know, understanding how to retool a business and processes like on the run in this chaos and, you know, you’ve shared a little bit about I’m curious, like, what is the last year been like for you and your team? Like, big side?


It’s been crazy, but so rewarding. You know, I think my team was one of the teams labeled as this like, rapid response team, meaning in March.


On a Saturday, I get a call from my product leader counterpart, and she’s like, Hey, who can we pull immediately pick up is getting rocked, all these things are broken. You know, we need to there’s like 10 things we have to go ship like this week alone, like, Okay, great. So I call one of the managers on my team, we kind of think about who would be the best person to disrupt one weekend or a couple of people and get this time.


Or team going quickly. And then, of course, looping the rest of the team when we’re back in during the week. So it all started like that. How What do we do? chickens running around, their heads cut off. And a lot of normal processes just thrown out the window because they’re slow. And it’s, again, unfortunately, the company and all the buy-in and all the sponsorship and all the things that you have to go through, it was just like, no, this is what we are doing. Here are the customer problems we’re seeing, here’s the business problems we’re seeing. And we have to react to this in days, not months. So that was a huge mindset shift, I think for the entire company, which I believe is very positive, right? It’s like, how do we move towards a much more agile way of developing features for our customers, right when the roadmap changes daily, exactly, or when we’re just taking things off the roadmap daily, right? It’s this new scary thing for many folks to get all their groceries delivered. I remember we did.


We were doing rapid research constantly. So we would ship something and do it and put it in, you know, research rapidly. And my user research lead at the time, she just added on to this, like, here’s everything we’re learning, here’s everything you need to know, here’s some amazing quotes and video clips just to build empathy with folks. And one of them, we call him beet green guy, because he said he got his first grocery order. And he was really worried, because he loves picking out his own vegetables. And you can see he was just almost in tears, because he’s like, you know, this, this driver, she comes up, she gives me my groceries, you know, our way, no contact, but he opened the door and you know, whatnot, and he looks in the bag. And he’s like, Oh my god, these are the most beautiful beet greens I’ve ever seen normally, ever, he’s like, I was worried that they might get beat up because I handled him with such care because I use the greens from the beets. And I love the greens from the beads. And he just said to the driver, you know, thank you so much. I think he thought that she picked her groceries. She didn’t pick his groceries, but it doesn’t matter. He’s like, thank you so much, you pick the perfect ones, and you handle them with such care. And he was like sold. So not only it started from a place of, I have to do this because I don’t want to go and store and I don’t want to get COVID to Wow, this is actually a really great service that betters my life, even outside of COVID. Right? It just saved me so much time, I can trust that they’re going to handle my things with care. And he had this connection with his delivery driver as well. That was very powerful. So I think, like I said, humbling, how much more we have to push the boundaries of not only, you know, being ADA compliant, but truly accessible for every single human in the world, or in the US for that matter. And going above and beyond to make sure that our experiences are very simple, very clear, very clean, is just something that we’re really focused on right now.


Stephanie, one of the questions we love to ask people is what would you like your legacy to be? Oh, my God, that’s such a good question. Something I think about a lot, not necessarily my legacy, but just having that little inner critic in your head always. They never really go away. Right. And I think, you know, I’ve read a few things recently, that really great leaders are the ones who are humble and who do question themselves frequently. I’m like, Oh, thank God.


Like, I’m not good enough. I’m not supporting my team well enough, I don’t, you know, I didn’t catch this thing, or I’m not smart enough, or we didn’t do this proper strategy in the right way. And I think when it all comes down to it, especially through this pandemic, and everything that my team has gone through this year,


so many folks, you know, during my last holiday email, thanking everyone, you know, for a fantastic year and everything that they you know, bring to our team.


Few people responded to it, and one in particular, just said, you know, Thank you Stephanie for leading with such humanity this year. And I mean, I could like cry, just thinking about


but at the end of the day, we spend more time with our colleagues than sometimes our significant others, right? We spend a lot of time creating things as a design community, right, creating something from nothing, which I love that we do that we create something from nothing that millions of people use then every day and, in my world, that they really require


wire, right? They require their groceries, their weekly staples, you know all the things to keep their home running their kids fed. And so we need to bring that same level of empathy that we use to build products into our teams. So I think I hope that my legacy is that


I was a leader who lifted others up, who helped them learn something new, and who helped them believe in themselves to ultimately create magic, because in my opinion, we create magic.


You’ve given some great advice already. But you know, advice to people who are new to the field who are just coming into digital design? What would you say to it to a new designer? Oh, gosh, I feel like at one point, I need to write a book on this.


Because I’m so passionate about it. And I would tell them, what I tell a lot of people on my team, that everyone is just figuring it out. I’m still figuring it out. Chris, I’m sure you’re still figuring out Laura, you’re still figuring it out, right? So to come into things being extra curious, right? And not threatened or feeling like you’re not enough, because you are enough, you just have to be curious enough, and you have to take some risks, just go out there and create. I think that in our field, in particular, it’s cliche to say, but you not only have to have a thick skin, you have to be brave, because you’re creating something that a million people are going to have an opinion about, that maybe someone will shut down, right, but you need to keep creating anyways, because the more you create, and the more rigor that you put your creations through, the more you learn, right. So, of course, it’s like a tried-and-true kind of hilarious sentiment that many times we’re working on a project or a feature. And it goes through multiple revisions, right? Just critique after critique after critique and revision after revision. And sometimes that gets it into like a Frankenstein approach. So we got to be careful. But for the most part at Walmart, we go through that level of rigor, because if we ship something, it could lose the company millions of dollars a day, or it could really harm someone’s livelihood, right, they could overdraft on their checking account, or, you know, boatloads of other issues at bay. So I think,


you know, not being afraid of that rigor, and using it as a learning opportunity. And then I would say, to not listen to so many of them, you know, gurus in our field that say, hey, you have to learn how to code or Hey, you know, like we earlier said, you know, the newest thing is, content, you know how to write better. Just find what you’re naturally passionate about, and lean into that, then you can work on being more t shaped right, then you can work on the other aspects that you find interesting, but in our field as well. product designer, right, that’s a huge spectrum massive. And so especially when people are like, oh, what are you looking for? When you’re hiring this person? I’m looking for equal skill sets across my whole team, because very few people are going to be that unicorn, if anyone, right, you just you


Tuesday, Tuesday, but in all seriousness, it’s a spectrum, right? From hardcore, IR researcher through to high five is motion, and like so many other things in between, right. So figuring out where on that spectrum, you’re most passionate, then learn everything there is to know about that side of the spectrum, and then get really crisp on what areas you just have no interest in, and that’s fine. But then start growing out in the areas that you do, right? So many folks will be like, I just, I can’t do motion. I’m just not interested. It’s like, that’s fine. You don’t have to, because there’s someone else on my team who already loves to do that. So you’ll partner with that meal pair to bring your lot your designs together. Right. But I think, like I said, just being curious, you know, joining things like General Assembly or different kind of, you know, however, you can gather information, and start to learn by doing right, whether it’s an internship, whether it’s, you know, reaching out to someone that you are just cyberstalking on LinkedIn, and you think their career is really cool. and sending them a message like, hey, I’d love to have 30 minutes of your time. I have some questions for you that I think might help shape my career, right, getting all those different aspects of knowledge.


These are really important. So hard skills and soft skills. Wow, this has been amazing. Thank you so much for joining us on the show today, Stephanie. Thank you so fun.


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More About Stephanie

References and Links

  1. The Joy of Work
  2. State of remote work 
  3. How to gain the psychological benefits of commuting
  4. Spotify Personas
  5. When Cultures Collide and the diagram if you don’t want to buy the book
  6. Walmart is hiring a boatload of UX roles and I am looking for a critical senior leader to join my team 🙂